Medical Pain Scale 0-10

When it comes to pain, it can become a challenge to get other people, such as a doctor, to understand just how bad your pain is. To them, your pain is invisible and it’s hard for them to understand what you are going through. Pain is personal - you are the only one who truly knows just how much chronic pain or minor pain you are experiencing at any given moment. There is no magic test that can measure a person’s pain and the pain intensity. Therefore, to understand pain better and aim for a better health related quality of life, pain level charts have been created to help bridge the gap between patients and doctors to find the best treatment of pain.

What is a Pain Scale Chart?

Every person experiences pain differently. The same issue may seem like the worst physical pain ever to one person while someone else may only find themselves experiencing only minor pain. To get a better understanding of each individual’s pain, a simple yet effective solution was created - pain scales. These rating scales provide a way for people to convey to a medical professional what their pain level is. Everyone feels pain differently, so these pain charts can help doctors or nurses better understand someone’s present state and condition. Standard medical pain scales are numeric rating scales that range from 1-10 with each pain level being increasingly more painful.

How do patients and doctors use the pain scale?

If you’re having difficulty rating your pain levels when the physician, nurse, or therapist asks, know that you are not alone. You have probably seen the common pain scales in a health care facility before, but many people aren't sure of the pain scale definition or how to rate their pain level scale between 1-10 (0 is pain-free). Doctors use the pain scale charts to perform a pain assessment for each patient to further determine proper treatment options. For patients, Wong-Baker faces are used for each level 1 through 10 to further assess the level of pain they are currently experiencing. Each face corresponds to a specific pain level to give an even better understanding to the patient of which pain level they are at. With a standard system of the medical pain scale (1-10) can be beneficial to both patients and doctors to ultimately alleviate the pain the patient is feeling.

How to describe your pain accurately?

The chart below provides descriptions and some tangible examples of the various levels that define the 0-10 pain scale. Patients should use this pain scale to aid in describing their pain accurately to a medical professional. To better explain your pain levels to your physician before arriving at a medical facility, we have a free printable pain scale chart for your use. Click here to view a PDF of the Michigan Pain Measurement Scales that includes pain scale descriptions 0-10 and Wong-Baker faces.

0  Pain free
1  Very minor annoyance-occasional minor twinges
2  Minor annoyance-occasional
3  Annoying enough to be distracting
4  Can be ignored if you are really involved in your work, but still distracting,
5  Can’t be ignored for more than 30 minutes.
6  Can’t be ignored for any length of time, but you can still go to work and participate in social activities.
7  Make it difficult to concentrate, interferes with sleep, you can still function with effort
8  Physical activity severely limited. You can read and converse with effort. Nausea and dizziness may occur.
9  Unable to speak, crying out or moaning uncontrollable- pain makes you pass out
10  Unconscious. Pain makes you pass out.
 

What are the 10 different types of pain scales? 

While we mentioned the Wong Baker scale above, there are a variety of pain scales that are used. As we all know, having experienced pain at some point in our lives, effectively communicating a pain level to someone else who isn’t experiencing the same pain is a real challenge. Pain is personal. That’s why there are many different types of pain scales out there that can better help a person describe the individual pain that they’re feeling. In fact, there are 10 unique pain scales to serve this purpose. Below, we will take a look at each one of these scales in more detail. 

pain score

Source: https://www.physio-pedia.com/Numeric_Pain_Rating_Scale

Numerical Rating Pain Scale: This type of scale is also commonly referred to as NRS-11 indicating that it is an 11 point pain scale for patients above the age of 10 years old to use. The scale begins at a 0 for no pain and goes up to a 10 being the worst pain possible. 

wong baker faces

Source: https://wongbakerfaces.org/

Wong-Baker Faces Pain Rating Scale: This type of rating scale is easily identified by the unique Wong-Baker faces to indicate levels of pain. Its original purpose was to serve as a scale exclusively for children as it is much easier to understand and comprehend than a traditional number scale. While there are still numbers on this scale, there are also 6 faces that accompany each number interval from “No Hurt” (0) to “Hurts Worst” (10). 

Source: https://healthjade.net/flacc-scale/

FLACC Scale: The acronym stands for Face (F), Legs (L), Activity (A), Cry (C), and Consolability (C). This is a specific scale used for young children from the ages of 2 months up to 7 years old to assess pain and also for those who are unable to effectively communicate pain. Each one of these categories will have an individual score ranging from 0-2. From there, a total score can be composed by adding up the scores from each category. 

Source: https://txpeds.org/sites/txpeds.org/files/documents/cries-scale.pdf

CRIES Scale: This scale is exclusively used for infants. The criteria that is considered when determining a pain score include crying, oxygen saturation, any changes in vital signs, facial expressions, and sleep. Each one of these categories can have a score from 0-2. Once each category is assessed, each score is added together to get a final pain score. 

CRIES pain scale

Source: https://www.nih.gov/

COMFORT Scale: This scale can be used for children, adults, or any individual who is unable to effectively communicate pain. The ratings used on this scale are a bit different from the previous scales described. The ratings span anywhere from 9-45 and are based upon 9 different aspects. These aspects include: 

  • Alertness
  • Calmness
  • Respiratory Distress
  • Crying 
  • Physical Movement
  • Muscle Tone
  • Facial Tension 
  • Blood Pressure
  • Heart Rate 

Each one of these categories can help determine a person’s pain level. 

COMFORT pain scale

Source: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/nursing-and-health-professions/mcgill-pain-questionnaire

McGill Pain Scale: This type is more aligned with what most consider a pain questionnaire. A person is presented with almost 100 different terms that can be used to describe pain and the person is instructed to select those that most closely relate to the pain being experienced. A score ranging from 0-78 can be obtained from this scale and is especially helpful for those going into rehabilitation. 

Source: https://nasemso.org/wp-content/uploads/PFD-Pain-Assessment-CE-Gross.pdf

Color Analog Scale: Based on the name itself, a color analog scale associates certain colors with certain levels of pain. There are 3 colors on this scale: 

  • Red represents high levels of pain. 
  • Yellow represents moderate levels of pain.
  • Green represents low levels of pain.

This scale is particularly used among children as the linear and color-coded layout is easy to understand by many different people. 

color analog scale

Source: https://theiciexperience.blogspot.com/2016/03/best-ever-mankoski-subjective-pain.html

Mankoski Pain Scale: This pain scale is similar to a traditional 0-10 medical pain scale with the addition of detailed descriptions. For each number, there is a pain description that can better help you and your healthcare provider understand the pain you are currently experiencing. 

mankoski pain scale

Source: https://openi.nlm.nih.gov/detailedresult?img=PMC3973876_JMedLife-06-383-g008&req=4

Brief Pain Inventory: This is a worksheet style pain scale that requires a person to answer 15 questions and associate pain level with each. This includes questions that relate to walking, associating with other people, and more. This is helpful for getting a snapshot of what a person’s pain level is over the course of 24 hours. 

descriptor differential scale of pain

Source: http://ratologydisabled.blogspot.com/2009/06/self-report-scales-and-procedures-for.html

Descriptor Differential Scale of Pain Intensity: Suggested by the name of this scale, 12 different descriptors are used to indicate a person’s individual pain. These descriptors include: 

  • Faint 
  • Moderate 
  • Barely Strong
  • Intense 
  • Weak
  • Strong
  • Very Mild
  • Extremely Intense 
  • Very Weak 
  • Slightly Intense 
  • Very Intense 
  • Mild 

A person will use an indication of a + or a - for each one of these descriptors to further describe what they are feeling. After they have gone through each one of these, an assumption can be made about the pain being felt. 

Finding the right treatment for chronic pain

Treatment of chronic pain isn’t always a walk in the park. It usually is a time-consuming process. Treatment requires time, effort, and sometimes multiple different methods of treatment. Your doctor can work with you to find what mix of treatment options will be optimal in relieving your chronic pain. Common treatment options of chronic pain include anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, and behavioral therapy. In most cases, an individual plan is made for each patient by a pain specialist to further assess and treat the problem, not everyone will have the same mix of treatment options to effectively treat their chronic pain.